Category Archives: Inspiration

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“Better” by Janet Williams

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I had the pleasure of taking some photos at the opening of the latest exhibition at the Avenue Road Gallery in Portobello last night.

“Better” is an exhibition by the very talented and very lovely Janet Williams, who is at work during the participatory element of her opening in the photo above.

The exhibition contains two key pieces of work, “Better Faces” and “Better City”.

“Better City” are Dublin cityscapes bursting with colour. “The thought process being, this city can get pretty glum with those grey skies looming over us all, depleting all our energy. Instead I wanted the sky to reflect the creativity, colour and energy people put into this city,” said Janet.

“Better Faces” is a series of 50 portraits of people from her generation whom she feels are making things better for themselves and better for the society in which they live.

“They are all a little disappointed and dealing with the recession in their own way. Everyone I know has made compromises in their life, but they are doing it with their chins up, full of ambition and energy. They don’t need their grey skies replaced with colour, they just need the chance to burst open with the colour that’s inside,” said Janet.

For the participatory piece last night, all visitors to the Avenue Road Gallery were invited to have their portraits taken in the same manner as the 50 “Better Faces”.

“Better” is open until December 12 and if you’re in Dublin you should really drop in. Particularly as the following photos in no way do it justice!

I really enjoyed this exhibition, from the motivation behind it to the finished work. It’s a timely reminder in a post-Budget week of all that’s good about Dublin.

As always at Avenue Road Gallery – the beautiful space run by Jennette Donnelly and Billy Kinsella – I  also enjoyed not just photographing, but meeting and talking to a variety of very talented and interesting people.

You can read all about “Better” here,

To see more of Janet’s photography, follow this link.

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Janet Williams with her piece "Better Faces"

Janet Williams with her piece “Better Faces”

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Head in the Clouds/I Love Lamp(posts)

I am in my sick-bed at the moment sorting out some recent photos. I came across the following images in between photos I took on a tour of a well-known building that afternoon and an exhibition opening later that night.

Only that I am going through old folders, I would never have seen them again probably and I’m not claiming that they’re anything particularly worth looking at either. Far from it, in fact.

They have just served as a timely reminder of how when you’re switched on and looking at the world in an image-framing mode it can make even the shortest and most routine walks a lot more fun. Plus I may not have noticed things like the fascinating and charming little plaque pictured below, which is placed high up on a red-brick wall on a building of no particular note, almost as forgotten as the era it laments.

I took these photos on the maybe 10-minute walk from Keogh’s Pub, off Grafton Street, (where we went after the tour) to where my car was parked on the top of Dame Street, by Christ Church Cathedral (from where I was driving to the exhibition opening in Portobello).

I was buzzing at the time from a photography point-of-view. Even between those two fairly lengthy photo-taking sessions I couldn’t put the camera away for a few minutes!

As usual, my head was mostly in the clouds on this short evening walk in Dublin City Centre, which I sort of chart in the captions below. It also seems I was quite taken with the lampposts! I’d say the 10-minute walk must have ended up taking 30 minutes at least (there are a lot more photos than the ones I’m inflicting on you below) Not that I felt it.

Having lost my photo-mojo recently, for various reasons, I need to try recapture the joy of photography that made me stop every 50 yards on a walk back to my car.

I need to get my head back in the clouds.

Looking out the window at Keogh’s Pub.

Out onto George’s Street, looking back at The Mercantile mural

Head back in the clouds!

Cutting through the alley towards Dublin Castle

Back out in the wide open at Dublin Castle

Walking by Dublin Castle and Lady Justice…

… slowly!

Dame Street

Christ Church

The plaque placed discreetly on the wall near where I parked

On arrival in Portobello

Eleanor says…

If, like me, you read a lot, then you are exposed to a huge amount of information and, as a consequence, the thoughts and words of many, many people, outside of those you encounter in “real life” or in the various forms of media and marketing that throttle us relentlessly every day.

Some of these thoughts and words are welcome, more of them are not. But, at least with reading, you can more easily exercise quality control! (The irony of that statement in here is not lost on me, dear reader)

Every now and again, if you’re lucky, you’ll come across someone whose words just resonate with you  at a really fundamental level; call it your core belief system or your heart or soul if you prefer, but whatever you call it, it’s what you truly feel and believe.

For me, no-one exemplifies this better than Eleanor Roosevelt. Her words are powerful, moving, thought-provoking and ring so true with me that when I was first exposed to them I had to go read more and more and more…

This remarkable lady is still one of the most quoted people out there, 50 years after her death. And with good reason. She was an intellectual powerhouse, with an astonishing capacity for compassion and courage.

She also possessed an extremely important and admirable attribute that I would  class as seriously lacking among us all these days: a strong social conscience. She listened to it and acted accordingly. She had many personal struggles, but they never detracted from her passionate quest for social justice.

I won’t go on too much more, as the point of this post is to let the great lady’s words speak for themselves, but I really like this short address about Eleanor Roosevelt from another former First Lady, Claudia “Lady Bird” Johnson, and it’s really worth reading if you have a minute.

Here’s a selection of my favorite quotes, hopefully some of them may provide you with a little inspiration and possibly the urge to do a quick search and find many more and infinitely better resources to read about Eleanor Roosevelt and the most meaningful life that she led.

Eleanor says:

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.

To handle yourself, use your head; to handle others, use your heart.

Well behaved women rarely make history.

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘” have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.”  You must do the thing you think you cannot do.

You can often change your circumstances by changing your attitude.

When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?

One thing life has taught me: if you are interested, you never have to look for new interests. They come to you. When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else.

The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.

No matter how plain a woman may be, if truth and honesty are written across her face, she will be beautiful.

Life was meant to be lived, and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.

Once I had a rose named after me and I was very flattered. But I was not pleased to read the description in the catalogue: “No good in a bed, but fine up against a wall.”

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.

Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively; unless you can choose a challenge instead of competence.

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.

No one won the last war, and no one will win the next war.

Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.

We do not have to become heroes overnight. Just a step at a time, meeting each thing that comes up, seeing it as not as dreadful as it appears, discovering that we have the strength to stare it down.

Women are like teabags: you never know how strong they are until they’re put in hot water.

I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could.

Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

To be a citizen in a democracy, a human being must be given a healthy start.

You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.

I think that somehow, we learn who we really are and then live with that decision.

It takes courage to love, but pain through love is the purifying fire which those who love generously know. We all know people who are so much afraid of pain that they shut themselves up like clams in a shell and, giving out nothing, receive nothing and therefore shrink until life is a mere living death.

What you don’t do can be a destructive force.

Beautiful young people are accidents of nature, but beautiful old people are works of art.

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.

In all our contacts it is probably the sense of being really needed and wanted which gives us the greatest satisfaction and creates the most lasting bond.

Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, “It can’t be done”.

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes. In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.

Heroes come from here

I walk through Ormond Square in Dublin’s inner city on my way to the quays.

It’s a small, well-kept square of terraced houses, with a little green containing a playground area at its centre.

The low wall surrounding that green has a plaque placed discreetly on it, dedicated to the square’s most famous son.

John Giles, one of Ireland’s greatest soccer players, was born and raised in number 7 Ormond Square.

What I really like about this simple plaque is the message its last line bears, particularly for the local kids: “Heroes come from here”.

The joy of youth

“I’m youth, I’m joy, I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg” – James M Barrie.

I was going through my photos last night as I tried to get my albums from this year in some sort of order and I realised that one of my favourite shots from this year was not up on this blog.

It is a photo of my niece Gianna enjoying the sea on Duncannon beach back in February as her big brother Kaleb keeps a watchful eye on her. I hadn’t planned on taking any photos that evening, but then, as I have mentioned before, that’s the great thing about phones these days, being able to capture moments like this:

Gianna, at the tender age of two, is already a great character – smart as a whip and fiercely independent. She also has that innate ability to tap into unbridled joy in the simple pleasures that seems to get harder for us all to access as the years go by.

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy,” Rumi said. Which brings me neatly to one of my other favourite photos from this year, once again featuring Gianna, the youngest of my sister Amy and her husband John’s wonderful children:

Super Ted

“Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.” – Eleanor Roosevelt.

This post is all about sharing ideas. I spend a lot of time on the Internet, as, probably, do you.

But how much of that is quality time?

If we take the magnificent and most quotable Eleanor Roosevelt’s statement as our guide, I’d say I spend a lot of my time online reading about or discussing events and people, whether that’s Waterstone’s removing their apostrophe (terrible) or Liverpool’s Stewart Downing (He cost £20 million and still hasn’t a single goal or assist this season, but he does have one arrest – also terrible).

And then there’s Facebook, the great black hole of “average” and “small”, which can easily swallow you up. I find Twitter a tad more enlightened!

But, I do spend quite a bit of my online time with ideas too, whether that’s reading about or discussing them (I just checked my Twitter account to verify my claim and I have also been sharing a lot of ideas I’ve been reading about lately on there!).

There are some fantastic resources online and I intend to share some that I have come across and use with you in the weeks and months ahead.

I’m going to start with one of the biggest and best: Ted.

Now Ted is so successful that many of you will have heard of it and some of you will frequent it. But, if you don’t stop in every now and again or you’ve never heard of it then you’re missing out!

I would urge everyone to bookmark it. Create a new folder called “Ideas” and starting filling it up with great sites focused on ideas (I’ll help you out there).

Ted, in its own words, is about “ideas worth spreading”. It’s completely free and provides “riveting talks by remarkable people”. This is another claim I can happily verify. Some evidence here: they are short videos, please give at least a couple of them a go:

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rory_sutherland_life_lessons_from_an_ad_man.html (included especially for all you PR/marketing/Advertising types!)

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I have watched a lot of Ted Talks at this stage and the great thing about them – apart from being hugely interesting, educational and entertaining – is that they are relatively short (the vast majority are 18 minutes or under, some are only a few minutes) and they are very accessible.

It’s not a site designed for academics, it’s a site designed for everyone. Perhaps the best thing about Ted is that learning about all those ideas can help get your own creative juices flowing and give you the kickstart you need to start coming up with some great ideas of your own.

If you watch the videos they will certainly give you a new perspective on many issues and even change your thinking, if you’re open to it.

It’s a word I don’t use often, but many of the Ted Talks are simply inspirational. At worst, they are merely engaging and interesting. So it’s not much of a risk watching one!

Ted started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment and Design. To say it’s broadened its remit since then would be putting it mildly! Business, Science, Culture, Arts, Entertainment… there are many broad themes containing talks and ideas of all kinds.

Helpfully, there’s also a Best of the Web section featuring those great videos out there that didn’t come through Ted. Like this one with Steve Jobs:

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What really got me excited about Ted (again) today was reading about Ted 2012 “Full Spectrum”. It sounds like a dodgy action movie sequel starring a middle-aged Irish man, but it’s not.

You see Ted is “in the midst of a dramatic reinvention of the ancient art of the spoken word”.

How so? Well “Full Spectrum” refers to the “rich use of multiple technologies, formats and approaches for the most powerful possible impact on an audience”.

The speakers they have secured this year are amazing and “Full Spectrum” promises to be spectacular. The Journal.ie gives you a flavour of the speakers here  and the full list is here.

So, finally, I challenge you to try Ted for 30 days!

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